Voters ‘regrettably’ turned away at local elections over ID says Electoral Commission

Voter ID has led to a postcode lottery at the ballot box

People were ‘regrettably unable to vote’ in the local elections yesterday, the Electoral Commission have said, as a result of new ID requirements.

Many reports on the day have revealed anecdotal evidence from the polling stations of voters being turned away due to their ID being rejected under newly enforced voting ID rules.

The requirements have led to a postcode lottery for access to the ballot box, campaign group The Electoral Reform Society has said, with examples of different rules being enforced at different polling stations.

Whilst some voters have also shared their experiences of being turned away for wearing a mask and others for presenting cards that were supposedly on the acceptable list of IDs such as bus passes.

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran shared her concerns that a ‘significant number’ of people will have been turned away at polling stations for lack of correct ID, given reports of this happening in her own constituency.

The Electoral Commission stated that although overall the elections were ‘well run’, that, “confidence in the overall picture, however, should not overlook other impacts which can only be revealed through detailed data collection and analysis over the coming weeks”.

The requirements risk disenfranchising voters and leading to increasing voter apathy.

Byline Times carried out extensive coverage of voters being turned away for lacking ID in England’s local elections, with one voter stating, “it’s not been communicated properly, it doesn’t send a very good signal”.

Another potential voter reported being turned away from attempting to vote on their lunch break and forgetting their ID at home, whilst councillors warned of older residents and people from ethnic minorities who lacked the right form of ID being disproportionately affected.

“Some elderly people do not have photo ID or passports. One man had lost his wallet and not applied for a new driving licence.

“Voters from the ethnic minorities might have their visa or passport application with the Home Office and can’t get voter ID,” Labour group leader Tahir Aziz told ByLine Times.

Another voter on Twitter said it took the local election officers 30 minutes to confirm their EU ID card as a valid form of ID in order to vote.

There were also accounts of people standing outside voting areas trying to turn away people who didn’t have ID’s without this being officially recorded, which would affect data collection on the numbers being denied the right to cast their vote.

Ian Maher, Labour Leader of Sefton Council, warned his constituents of these so-called voting ‘bouncers’ outside polling stations, who were supposedly attempting to prevent a proper record of those being turned away.

Only 86,000 of an estimated 2 million without proper photo ID applied for the new voter authority certificate ID.

As exclusive research by The Big Issue found that one in 18 applications for the authority certificates were then rejected by councils.

The data, obtained by Freedom of Information requests to 230 councils which held local elections, sparked fear of distorted election results and further lost votes.

Furthermore, previous polling by the Local Government Information Unit found 41% of people had heard little or nothing about new voter ID requirements.

Voter ID was introduced with the intention of reducing election fraud, however the Electoral Commission reported that over the past five years, there has been no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud, with just 9 out of 1,386 cases of alleged electoral fraud since 2018 leading to convictions.

The Electoral Reform Society asked, “How many more people lost their vote yesterday due to voter ID than have ever lost their vote from impersonation at the ballot box?”

Evaluation of how voter ID went is expected from the Electoral Commission by June and a full report in September.

(Photo credit: Flickr / Creative Commons)

Hannah Davenport is trade union reporter at Left Foot Forward

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